HOOVER DAM, AZ (ARIZONA HIGHWAYS TV) - Just like with the ancient pyramids, one look at Hoover Dam and you stand in awe in the shadow of its sheer magnitude.
[VIDEO: Hoover Dam: A look inside]
Hoover Dam is a concrete arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, located on the border between Arizona and Nevada.
Pete Mayes knows the dam inside and out, so it's only fitting that this retired dam employee now gives tours of the concrete wonder.
Today, he takes us to places no tourist has seen since that tragic day of 9/11.
The first bucket of concrete was poured at the dam on June 6, 1933.
The dam was poured in blocks, five foot tall, they were from 25 feet square up to 60 feet square, all interlocked like a jigsaw puzzle.
Concrete blocks for the dam were poured one by one, row by row.
Remember, each of those blocks was only five feet high, so that dispels the popular myth about workers falling to their deaths into concrete.
Here now, in the Arizona wing of the power plant, there are nine generators. When many of them are running at once, they certainly "generate" a lot of noise, as well as power.
Each generator is seven stories tall.
Hoover Dam generates enough hydroelectric power to serve 1.3 million people each year. The dam distributes 66% of its power to southern California, 25% to southern Nevada, 19% to Arizona.
The building of the dam was a marvel of its own, with men taking on the task of taming the Colorado river. It had to be diverted around the dam site through four 50-diameter tunnels, two on each side of the river, drilled through canyon walls.
Inside the dam, there are mazes of long hallways. There are also tunnels everywhere!
Crews put more than two miles of tunnels inside the dam for maintenance inspection and air ventilation. And in those tunnels, they also put in hundreds of gauges to measure temperature, stress, strain.
If you notice, the wall of the dam is arched, not straight across.
The arch puts all the pressure on the canyon walls. The keyway makes each block interlocked, and takes all the pressure. The more pressure you put on it, the stronger it becomes.
The dam's construction was not just about cement and power, but there is surprisingly lots of art within the structure.
They just didn't want some concrete and a bunch of machinery. They wanted, and this is unusual for the government, to put in art deco.
So when crews built the dam, they put in unique and beautiful flooring. Visitors won't want to miss the Southwestern-Indian designs in the terrazzo floors.
Hoover Dam became, even during construction days, a great source of pride among the workers. They early on realized that what they were building was something far more important than just another construction project.
Workers showed grit, fortitude and determination to get the project done.
Despite what the workers were going through with the Depression and the incredible feat they were about to undertake, it was never about if the project was going to get done, it was always about when.